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Make Your Next Barbecue a Success with These Grilling Tips

July 3, 2018

The real secret to successful grilling is...there is no secret! The key is to plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time, from selecting ingredients to preheating the grill to the moment that mouth-watering meal graces your table. And with summer grilling season in full swing, it never hurts to brush up on some grilling basics, whether you’re a cooking novice or a 5-star chef. Here are five tips that are sure to make your next cookout a hit with all your guests.

#1: Choose Your Seasoning

Whether you prefer sweet or tangy, there’s no shortage of delicious flavorings to choose from.

• Immersing foods in a marinade is a great way to tenderize and add flavor. How long should you marinate? About 30 minutes to 2 hours is best. Smaller items will spend less time marinating, while thicker foods will require more time.
• A wet or dry BBQ rub can be applied a few hours ahead of cooking. Press gently and don’t rub too hard, to avoid over-seasoning or damaging the texture of the food.
• Brush on a barbecue sauce or glaze during the final 30 minutes of cooking, or as soon as the food comes off the grill. Any sooner could cause the sugars to scorch.

#2: Prep Your Food and Preheat Your Grill

By the time you light the grill, you need to be ready to start cooking. Prepare ingredients ahead of time, along with side dishes, condiments, plates and utensils.

• To get that classic round burger shape, make a small indent in the center of your patty with a spoon or your thumb. It will puff up while grilling to give you an appealing shape when it’s done.
• Soaking bamboo skewers in warm water for about 30-60 minutes will keep them from burning, and putting two skewers through each kabab will prevent them from rolling around.
• Making grilled vegetables? Lightly coat them with olive oil for great-tasting results.

Just like you preheat your oven before baking a cake, you’ll get better results if you preheat your grill before cooking out. Grills cook your food using both radiant and conductive heat. Radiant heat from a flame cooks the portions of food between the bars of the cooking grate. Conductive heat, in which food comes into contact with the grate, is what creates that familiar, appetizing "seared" appearance that everyone loves so much.

Follow these simple guidelines to get your grill ready to cook.
• Avoid lighter fluids. They may give your food a chemical taste. Additive-free lump charcoal tends to produce a superior flavor to traditional briquets.
• Different woods create different flavors. For example, applewood is sweet, mesquite is tangy and hickory adds bacon-like flavor.
• If you’re cooking on a charcoal grill, use a chimney starter. Just place some crumpled paper in the bottom, fill with charcoal and light! Once they’re lit, charcoal grills take about 5 minutes to preheat.
• Preheating a gas grill typically runs about 15 minutes. Gas flames produce less radiant heat than charcoal flames, so many gas grills come with materials such as lava rocks, ceramic rods or metal bars between the flame and the cooking grate. It simply takes longer for the grate to get hot enough to properly sear the food.
• To gauge the temperature, count the number of seconds you can hold your hand 5" from the grill rack before moving it:
◦ High heat (400-450º): 2 seconds
◦ Medium (300-350º): 5 seconds
◦ Low (250-300º): 10 seconds
• Prepare to add more coals. One large chimney of charcoal will last you about 40-50 minutes, and you’ll want to start a new batch about 20 minutes before you need it. Light fresh coals in a chimney starter over a non-flammable surface such as brick or concrete.
• Use a long-handled wire brush to clean off charred debris before placing food on the grill. Clean again when you’re finished cooking.
• Fold a paper towel, hold it with a pair of tongs and dip it in oil. Gently and evenly coat the grate before cooking to keep food from sticking.

#3: Direct or Indirect Heat?

Different foods require different temperatures and cooking times. It helps to follow a 20-minute rule: use direct heat if the food takes less than 20 minutes to cook, indirect heat if it takes more than 20.

So-called "fast cooking" is appropriate for small, thin, tender items like grilled chicken or fish, vegetables or thinly sliced steaks or chops.
• Cook the food directly over the flame, about 4-6" over the embers.
• If you’re using a charcoal grill, move the coals around to create "hot" and "cool" zones on the cooking surface. Use the hot zone for searing and the cool zone to keep food warm until it’s done.
• If you have a gas grill, set one burner on hot and another on medium to create the same effect.

Slow cooking is best for large or tough cuts of meat, allowing them to cook evenly without burning. Food should be near but not directly over the flame, and covered to let it cook slowly.

• With a charcoal grill, rake the coals into two piles on either side, placing an aluminum pan in the center, underneath the meat, to catch the drippings.
• If you have a gas grill with two burners, light the burner on one side and place the food on the other. If you have three burners, light two on one side and place the food in the middle. Most gas grills have built-in drip pans.

#4: While You’re Grilling

Once that food is on the grill, let the heat work its magic and pay attention while that tempting smell fills the air.

• Use a grilling basket for small items like veggies or fish -- it’ll keep them from falling through the grate.
• Keep the lid closed. We know you want to sneak a peek, but opening too much lets heat escape and risks drying out your meat.
• Don’t touch! Many cooks make the mistake of turning too much. Just one or two turns is usually all you need.
• Don’t overcook! You can always cook the food a little longer if it’s underdone, but you can’t go back if it’s overdone.

A few safety tips are also essential for successful barbecuing.

• To avoid food contamination, always use separate cutting boards, utensils and platters for raw and cooked foods, and never baste with your marinating liquid. Keep food refrigerated while it’s marinating.
• Use a food thermometer to make sure your food is heated to the appropriate temperature.
• If you notice any flare-ups, deprive them of oxygen. Close the lid to suffocate the fire, and avoid using water as it can splatter.

#5: Finally, Let It Rest

Your food will continue cooking for a few minutes after you remove it from the grill, so let it rest before serving.

Place the food on a clean platter to help juices redistribute evenly throughout. In about 10 minutes, it’ll be ready to enjoy!

Are you looking for the perfect grill for your next barbecue?

Drop by a Metro Appliances & More showroom near you! We’ll answer your questions about the different types of grills available and help you make the selection that’s best for you.

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